Thursday, July 2, 2020

Ruth Bancroft Garden in late June 2020

It's no secret that the Ruth Bancroft Garden (RBG) in Walnut Creek is one of my favorite gardens, and I jump at every chance I get to visit.

That's exactly what happened last Saturday. I had somewhere to be in East Bay, and the RBG was only 15 minutes further. It would have been foolish not to take advantage of this opportunity!

COVID-19 measures are still in force, including the mandatory use of face masks and social distancing. Everybody I saw was complying, and nobody was disgruntled or ill-tempered. These requirements are simply the new normal.

The RBG is getting ready for their annual Sculpture in the Garden show starting on Friday, July 17 and running until September 1. Quite a few sculptures were in place already while others were still waiting near the entrance. You'll see some of entries in the photos below, but without credits since the pieces hadn't been labeled yet.

Agave franzosinii


Thursday, June 25, 2020

Summer 2020 desert road trip: a fantasy

From the photos below, it's easy to see what I really want to do right now: go on a road trip, preferably to the desert. I know, it's sizzling hot there right now, it being summer and all, but that's just one of those facts of life you deal with. After all, we've been dealing with far worse these past few months—three, four? I can hardly remember how many it's been.

But no matter how much I want to go, it's still too dicey out there for me to be comfortable. So for now, all I can do is look at the photos below as I indulge in this fantasy.

Monday, June 22, 2020

Low-key Father's Day weekend in the garden

I had a low-key weekend doing odd jobs in the garden—trimming, weeding, rearranging, etc. Nothing too exciting, but not every minute can be filled with thrills and titillation. I did stop now and then to take some pictures of the garden. I enjoy having these frozen moments in time to look back on down the line.

Early evening in the front garden

Friday, June 19, 2020

Return to Tucson's Pima Prickly Park

When I was in Tucson, Arizona last December, I swung by Pima Prickly Park one cold morning to see how it had changed from my January 2019 visit.  The good news: It's still there, and the plants are doing their thing, growing slowly but steadily. The bad news: There isn't any. And that's a wonderful thing for a public garden run entirely by volunteers on virtually no money.


The 7-acre park is owned by Pima County and run by the Tucson Cactus and Succulent Society. The TCSS signed a 15-year operating agreement with Pima County in 2010, and the park was officially dedicated in 2012. As I said in an earlier post, TCSS members have volunteered countless hours and donated countless plants to create a desert habitat park that highlights desert plants. The park is not fenced so it's basically open anytime, although technically the hours are from sunrise to sunset. There is no fee for parking or admission.

Monday, June 15, 2020

The weed I love to hate

Weeds are a fact of life for a gardener. I'm not obsessive-compulsive about weeding; in fact, I'm quite tolerant towards some (Mexican needle grass, I hope you appreciate it). But there's one weed that drives me bonkers: spotted spurge (Euphorbia maculata). It's an annual that goes away in the fall and doesn't come back until late spring. But when it does, it's seemingly overnight—and it's everywhere, especially in inconvenient spots like this:


That's my prized Ferocactus rectispinus, a formidably armed barrel cactus. As you can see, the spotted spurge has staked its claim in this pot.

Thursday, June 11, 2020

Something different: rarely seen sights from the back garden

Usually my posts focus on the plantings in front of the house. Arguably, that's the most photogenic part of the garden, and the area where I've invested most of my energy in recent years. But the back yard has seen progress as well—nothing flashy, but slow and steady.

Time to show you some vignettes:

Agave chiapensis, getting massive. Behind is the bottle tree I put up after seeing so many of them in Austin, Texas in 2018.

Wednesday, June 3, 2020

First major heat wave victim: Grevillea 'Kings Fire'

Last week, temperatures jumped from the high 70s to the low 100s in just a couple of days. I was groaning, but I do that a lot—and I have a cool house to retreat to.

This poor baby wasn't so lucky. In fact, it's the biggest victim of this mini heat wave:


It's my prized Grevillea 'Kings Fire'. Last week, it was blooming merrily. Now it looks like a hair bleaching experiment gone horribly wrong:

Sunday, May 31, 2020

End of May in the garden

There's never been a May quite like this—month 2 (and a half) of sheltering in place. The human residents are getting antsy, itching to go beyond the confines dictated by COVID-19. The plants, on the other hand, don't care. They like it here, and they never go anywhere anyway.

It was a perfect May until this past week when a short but brutal heat wave knocked humans and plants alike for a loop. After a 20-degree drop, we've had a beautiful weekend but another mini heat wave is in the forecast. The first tentacles of summer are causing ripples.

Let's take a look at the front garden:

Front garden as seen from the porch (never mind the cluttered table)

Thursday, May 28, 2020

Ruth Bancroft Garden shade structure renovation

The heart of the Ruth Bancroft Garden (RBG) is, quite literally, the metal shade structure that gets wrapped in plastic in the winter to protect the sensitive plants that live there.

The original structure was built in 1972 and, after 48 years, needed rehabbing. In addition, the planting bed had issues with bad drainage and compacted soil. In April, the entire structure was taken down to allow the workers to bring in heavy machinery. In any garden, the work is never over. That's doubly true for a large garden like the RBG.

When I visited in mid-May, the shade structure was back up, additional soil had been brought in to raise the planting mound, and the workers were getting ready to place rocks.


But where are the plants?

Sunday, May 24, 2020

Pre-Memorial Day outing to Annie's Annuals

Finding myself with some unexpected free time on Thursday, I decided to make a quick trip to Annie's Annuals in Richmond, about an hour from my house. I thought I'd have the nursery all to myself, but I was severely mistaken. Even at 10 a.m. on Thursday morning, there was a line outside the nursery just to get in (because of social distancing requirements, they limit the number of customers that can be inside the nursery at the same time):

Line outside the nursery. Every time a customer left, somebody waiting in line was able to go in.

It took a good half hour to get in, but I didn't hear any impatient grumbling. That in itself surprised me because patience has its limits—I know from personal experience. However, the people I was in line with all seemed understanding and respectful of the restrictions. For the most part, plant people are good people!